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Free Study Guide-Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert-Free Book Notes
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Sitting by the open window one evening, Emma is in a reflective mood. The chime of the church bells takes her to her childhood days when she would worship in church with the nuns. She feels moved enough to visit the church, and once there, she seeks out the curé, Abbé Bournisien. When she tries to hint that she needs spiritual healing, the curé relates a list of problems he encounters in the parish. He is very distracted and when he asks why Emma might have approached him, she merely responds, "Oh no, nothing -- nothing." They look at each other, both speechless for a moment before going their separate ways.

Emma returns home in a state of shock. She is astonished "that there should be calm about her and such turmoil within." She pushes Berthe away when the baby attempts to play with her. Berthe falls against a chest of drawers and hurts herself. Emma calls for help, claiming that the fall has been an accident. Later, Emma watches the sleeping child and is struck by Berthe's ugliness. That night Charles 'comforts' his wife.

Life in Yonville becomes unbearable for Leon, for he is "tired of loving without results." Paris, where he intends to study law, beckons him with all its glamour. Having made the necessary arrangements to move, Leon pays Emma a final visit. The meeting is brief but full of restrained feeling. After Leon has left, Emma is shocked and crushed. When Homais visits the Bovarys later in the evening, Emma is forced to listen to a discussion about the pros and cons of Parisian life.


Struggling with her inner turmoil, Emma hears the church bells and is reminded of her youthful days in the convent. She responds to the desire swelling within her to speak to an authority-figure about her problem. She, therefore, goes to the church, seeks out the local parish priest, and tries to tell him of her conflict. He does not hear her at all, but talks about his own problems in the parish. Flaubert is definitely criticizing the insensitivity of the clergy to the problems of the lay people and their inability to minister to spiritual needs.

When Emma returns home, her anxiety has reached a peak. The curé has done nothing to "heal" her of her "ills." In this state of depression, she is cruel to her daughter, pushing her away when she seeks attention. Berthe's fall shows just how selfish Emma has become. The incident also foreshadows Emma's future attempts to cut herself off from her immediate family and shows how deceptive Emma can be.

The relationship between Emma and Leon is ended by Leon's decision to leave Yonville for Paris. Their love remains undeclared although both are aware of their pent-up emotions. The reader can easily surmise what Leon's departure will do to Emma's emotional state.

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